*Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has addressed ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” article that broke over the weekend claiming that he tried to cover up attempts to have the league go easy on Ray Rice with just a two-game suspension after learning he knocked his then-fiance unconscious in an elevator.
Addressing the media, Bisciotti said he strongly believes the sources for the ESPN article were Ray’s attorney, Ray’s agent and Ray’s friends — who gave the info to ESPN in an effort to get Ray reinstated into the NFL.
Bisciotti says the allegations in the ESPN article are false, but says he believes Ray’s team would push the false stories out because the best way to build a case for reinstatement is to “make everybody else look like they’re lying.”
“The majority of the sources are people that work for Ray,” Bisciotti said. “Almost everything in there is anonymous, but it’s clear from the subject matter that it’s Ray’s attorney, it’s Ray’s agent, it’s Ray’s friends.”
“Outside the Lines” reported Friday that Bisciotti, Ravens president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome tried to persuade NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to be lenient on Rice following his February arrest.
The Ravens released Rice earlier this month after TMZ released the second video. The NFL suspended Rice indefinitely shortly after he was released by the team.
According to the OTL report, Ravens coach John Harbaugh urged team officials to cut Rice immediately after the first TMZ video, which showed Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator, was released in February. The report also indicated Harbaugh went to Newsome in March and asked him to release the three players who were arrested this offseason, including Rice.
Minutes before the news conference, the Ravens issued a lengthy rebuttal to the OTL report. Included in the Ravens’ statement:
• Harbaugh said he did not recommend cutting Rice after seeing the first videotape, as OTL said he had urged his bosses. “I did not recommend cutting Ray Rice from the team after seeing the first videotape,” Harbaugh said in the statement. Newsome, in the statement, said: “Neither John nor anyone else ever recommended cutting Ray Rice before we saw the second videotape on September 8.”
• The Ravens director of security denied that he received an account of the incident “within hours” of the incident. In the statement, he said that within “a couple of days,” he asked the casino and the Atlantic City policy for a copy of the videotape and he was turned down. He said that, on Feb. 25, a police department official offered to view the tape and “describe what he saw.” He said the official described both of them as intoxicated, but that “the officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her.”
• Newsome said that he and Rice talked and that Rice told him he hit his then-fiancee, but that they did not “discuss details beyond that.” “I immediately focused on Ray taking responsibility and making amends,” Newsome said. “I later said Ray didn’t lie to me because he told me he hit her, and that is what the video later showed-although the video was much more violent than what I had pictured.”
• Bisciotti and Cass denied that they lobbied the judicial system in New Jersey or Goodell to go easy on Rice. “That statement is not true,” Cass said.
Bisciotti also addressed OTL’s report that he texted Ray Rice – one day after cutting him – basically offering him a job down the road, a move that Rice interpreted as “hush money” and left Rice “flabbergasted.”
Bisciotti confirmed the text exchanges but said they were “told to someone and misquoted” by ESPN in the article. He then published what he says are texts in “verbatim” form.
“I did have an exchange of text messages with Ray, which he initiated,” Bisciotti said. “I felt awful about what had happened. I believed he was, at heart, a good person, that he was capable of redemption, and I wanted to tell him I would be supportive of him. Here are the texts, not as told to someone and then misquoted in the article, but verbatim.”
Those texts, per the Ravens release, read as follows:
Monday September 8, 7:44 pm
Ray: I understand the decision but I am thankful for what you have done for me and my family. Me and my wife will continue to work on us and being better but I just wanted to say thank you for giving me a chance
Steve: I’m sorry we had to do this. I still love you and believe that you will be a great husband and father If you ever need to talk just call
Tuesday September 9, 10:27 pm
Steve: I just spent two hours talking to Ozzie. It was all about you. We love you and we will always figure out a way to keep you in our lives. When you are done with football I will hire you to help me raise Great young men. I still love you!!!
Ray: I know it’s a rough time for all of us I love all of you and that will never change for life!
Steve: I will help you make it a great life indeed. I give you my WORD
Ray: That means the world to me and my family we greatly appreciate you and thank you.
At his press conference on Monday, Bisciotti addressed the idea of trying to pay off Rice.
“If I cut a guy making $6 million a year — if I’m promising him to be by his side and hire him for $100,000 a year five years from now so he can help Harry Swayne in our player development department — if that is considered worthy of him going along, I find that rather absurd because it would take him 250 years to make back the $25 million that I took away from him by cutting him.”